Monday, March 12, 2012

Barbara Jordan

“My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, and it is total,” Congresswoman Barbara Jordan told a national television audience on July 25, 1974.   She was not about to stand by and watch “the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”  At that time, Jordan was participating in the House Judiciary Committee hearings on President Richard Nixon’s serious abuse of presidential powers.  Jordan’s vote again Nixon helped lead to the President’s resignation in August.

A brilliant scholar and a thrilling orator, Jordan became the first African-American elected to Congress since the 1870s.  Her eloquent denunciation of Nixon at the committee hearings in 1974 stirred the nation.  Two years later, she became the first black woman to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.  Her presence there, she noted, proved that “the American Dream need not forever be deferred.”  After retiring from Congress in 1979, Jordan taught at the University of Texas in Austin.   In 1992, though confined to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis, she again addressed a Democratic convention.  Less than four years later, however, she died at the age of 59.   President Lyndon B. Johnson once said Jordan “proved that black is beautiful before we knew what [the saying] meant.”

Jordan’s love of and respect for the U.S. Constitution was so great that she always carried a copy of the document in her purse.